My Paper Boat

It is home
It is still home
A small, stark, unsung, unremarkable, nondescript town
A dot in the hinterland, Karnal,
Known for nothing apart from deriving its name from the mythical ‘Karna’
And a mammoth, magnificent statue of the Lord playing his flute.
A hundred odd miles away from glitzy Delhi
And a ramshackle, derelict home–
This is how I started my journey.

There are two kinds of people who come from small towns–
Those who just crave to settle down where they grew up,
Taking delight in the wonder and tragedy of knowing everyone from cradle to grave,
And yet others who desperately want to get away afar
Carrying their basketful of dreams…
I fall in the latter group.
My slow betrayal of the quaint town and its quotidian life
Was accompanied by my keen embrace of the modern world.
I looked for a future scrawled storeys high,
My stomach churning with butterflies, as I bid my home a final goodbye.
Delhi welcomed me into its fold
With its razzle dazzle, with its crass, contriving, counterfeit ways
A fine job, a plush home,
Complete with trappings of luxuries all.

Four decades separate me from the time I left my native place
But its scents, sounds, songs, my senses can still recall.
I only have to feel a bracing quality in the air
And I itch to be there.
The world has changed since
Parents gone, the dilapidated structure only an avalanche of memories,
I am a mere guest in my own place
And yet memory is partial – always disregarding the present
It offers its heart only to the shrine of the dead past
Probably the only Paradise is Paradise lost!

Footprints in the snow get erased by the next storm
But not one’s most truthful memories
They lie sealed securely in a vault
My paper boat is still afloat
Yes, it is home
It still is…
Woh kaagaz ki kashti, woh baarish ka paani…
(That paper boat, that sound of trickling rain).

Sangeeta Kampani, 63, was formerly with the IRS.

Featured image: Bruno Kelzer / Unsplash